Versailles on Fortune’s throne

Nizar M. Halloun | June 11, 2014 | Travel

After accompanying a number of visitors through an infime part of one of the most beautiful man-made wonders’ history, I am confident enough to write a brief entry. The Palace of Versailles, that many have probably already visited or are planning to, is the heart of Versailles, a city that once was, for 107 years, and some still consider, the capital of the Kingdom of France.

My intention is not to recount the Palace’s history, there is more than it is needed around, from pictures to articles and videos, to outer and historic depictions. What I mean to hint to is what an occasional visitor will not sens, to hearten to look for what is not given at first hand when walking through this wonder.
Where to start when there is so much to say?

Winter, winter is the proper time-place. The Palace’s wildest character is betrayed by the cold-clean bone-breaking air and wind tunnels formed by the winter’s skeletal trees, by the shattered Canal, by the Grande Commande’s statues hibernating under their covers. Louis XIV’s glory and the XVI’s damnation is, dolefully,  superficially awe inspiring to occasional visitors, when in reality it is emotionally charged and created to ally the intimate to the glorious, to be both pragmatic and elevating.

Elevating, if one chooses the right gates to enter from to begin with, and most go across the one to which they have been led like the Allée des Mouton’s well tamed cattle. Elevating, if one searches for the right spots on the ludicrous map one is handed, thus allowing the optical illusions hold away from the shallow and the desultory, and draw into the transcendental and the immortal.

Transcendence and immortality are Louis the XIV’s omnipresent attributes of the physical body, through which the kings of France become one “mystical body”, forever palpable and on display. Take Louis XIV’s sun, the element that epitomises Versailles. The sun is a vision of elevation and transparency that still dominates both the structures and the gardens, starting from the Grande Écurie’s now nonexistent golden gate, till the wilder areas to which few to none of the six million yearly visitors have been. The wilder areas, the farther forest, a two hours or so brisk walk around the royal grounds, gives a taste of the pre-1789 gigantic dimensions of 8000 hectares trimmed after the French Revolution’s genocidal terror and bloodshed.

After entering a side gate, ascend to the Parterre d’Eau, face the Canal, shut your eyes pitch black, and imagine when it used to sit raised up, crowned with the many-coloured flowers of prosperity.

In Fortune solio
sederam elatus,
prosperitatis vario
flore coronatus;
quicquid enim florui
felix et beatus,
nunc a summo corrui
gloria privatus.¹

Note line
¹ I used to sit raised up,
crowned with
the many-coloured flowers of prosperity;
though I may have flourished
happy and blessed,
now I fall from the peak
deprived of glory.


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